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  1. These are the notes from a sermon I preached at my church when filling in for our pastor. It is all about Ephesians 2:1-10, and the meaning of "by grace, through faith." Needless to say, my Catholic friends here will likely not agree with much of this, but I pray everyone can find something edifying here: Ephesians 2:1-10 By grace through faith. This is one of our distinctives as evangelical Protestants. But what does it mean, both objectively and subjectively? What is the significance of our salvation being "by grace through faith" both theologically and practically? I would like to examine this by going through Ephesians 2:1-10. ** 1 ** Why do we need grace? Ephesians 2:1-3 explains that well enough. Paul tells us under the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we, before we were saved by grace through faith, were dead. In what sense were we dead? Our sinfulness had robbed us of true life, which Jesus said in John 17:3 is to know God and His Son who He has sent. But it is worse than this. Our natural sinfulness had cut us so far off from God that we were completely incapable of submitting to God. Romans 8:6-8 tells us. So before grace, we were so dead in our spirit that we had no ability or inclination to trust in Jesus Christ and live in the eternal life of knowing Him and His Father. Because of this, we needed grace. Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:4-5. God's grace is what was needed to bring us to life, to so restore our minds and hearts that we would have both the ability and the desire to trust in Jesus Christ and experience the life of knowing Him. Knowing this should change how we view and treat unbelievers. First, we should remember that they are dead, and you do not berate or judge or condemn the dead for being dead. Yes, their deadness will lead to their condemnation, but our place is to weep at their deadness and seek their life. After all, we are called to preach the Gospel, the power of God to salvation, and that is what the Holy Spirit uses to bring life. Let me be more explicit: it is not appropriate for Christians to spend time berating, complaining about, gossiping about, or lamenting the dead, lost behavior of those who do not know God. We were once that way as well, as the first verses of Ephesians 2 make clear, and they are doing what dead people do. They need grace, and we are to give it so that through us God might give His grace and bring them to life in Jesus Christ, who died and rose to be the Redeemer of the lost, the Resurrector of the dead. This should also humble us when we think of it, because we really needed grace. We were totally dead in our sins, and it is *only* by God's grace that we are now alive. As Romans 9:11 makes clear, there was nothing in us that prompted God to give us life. It is nothing but His love and grace, so we should never be proud or boastful or feel superior to anyone, even unbelievers, but instead should fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the only one strong enough to give grace of the magnitude that could save such sinners, and say, "To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood...to him be the glory and power forever and ever! Amen." ** 2 ** How are we saved by grace and saved through faith? I pay attention to prepositions. We are saved *by* grace and *through* faith. Of course, Ephesians was written in Greek, so I stepped back to check out the details of the grammar. As it turns out, there is no preposition before "grace." We get the word "by" because it is the best English way to translate the dative case of the word "grace" in ancient Greek. The dative case of a noun is used to show that this particular noun is what accomplishes the action of the verb. So grace, being in the dative case, is the instrument of salvation. Grace is the power which God uses to save. Grace makes us alive together with Christ. Faith is not the instrument. Faith does not do the saving. Instead, the word "faith" has the Greek preposition "dia." This means, just as it is translated, "through." What is the difference? Salvation by grace through faith means that the saving grace comes by means of faith to the person. To put it simply, faith is essentially the bridge by which grace comes down to save us. Faith is the like the IV tube in which flows the saving medicine of grace, provided by Jehovah Rophe, the Healer. God saves, using grace to do the saving, and getting the grace in through faith. So what does this mean to us? How should that impact our lives? Firstly, it kills any pride. Faith is not something we do or decide that saves us. Sometimes we can get or give that impression when we talk about being saved by faith. But faith doesn't do the saving; grace does the saving, and grace uses faith as the door. Our decision to have faith in Jesus Christ did not save us; all it did was open the floodgates of God's saving grace. And furthermore, our faith is not even from within ourselves, but, as Paul says in verse 8, it is part of a gift that God gives. So we are saved by God's grace, and God's grace gets to us by means of our faith, but our faith is itself a gift of God! We can claim no credit for our own salvation; it occurs completely by God's loving power. This should, like the answer to the previous question, destroy our pride and fix our eyes on the glory of our God who is so mighty to save us. This should also remind us not to get frustrated with ourselves or with unbelievers when our evangelistic efforts seem to be fruitless. Salvation is God's work (Rom. 9:16). He is the one who opens the eyes of the blind to have faith, and He is the one who delivers the saving grace. Also, it should remind us of the part of salvation we ought to work for in others. Our goal should be getting people to trust in Jesus Christ, to have faith. This is the part that comes out of them, even if God creates it. We should be the people God uses to create faith. We only need to be concerned about bringing about faith, removing the intellectual, emotional, and willful obstacles to trusting in Jesus. The rest we can leave up to the wisdom and power of God to make a dead heart alive. ** 3 ** Why does grace come through faith? It is important to consider why faith is the channel through which God gives saving grace. Fortunately, we don't have to endlessly ponder this question, because Paul himself answers it. He says, "it is not from works, so that no one can boast." Salvation by grace through faith is humbling. We just saw that twice. If salvation came from works, we could claim credit and exalt ourselves, saying, "I did right before God, and He has rewarded me with what I earned! I deserve eternal life." But this would be blasphemy, because men are by nature hopelessly corrupt, set against all that God is. Romans 5:10 tells us that we were once enemies of God. God is mighty and holy and righteous, and therefore He should rightfully hold all the cards over those who have rebelled against Him. It is not proper that man should be able to make up for his sinfulness, but instead that God should out of love restore man in forgiveness. Jesus died for our freedom, and He should rightly get all the credit. Because of this, grace is the perfect power for salvation, since it is free and unearned, and faith is the perfect channel for saving grace, because it is entirely dependent and trusting. By grace through faith gives man no place to claim credit for salvation, and no grounds for pride. There is another good reason for grace through faith, though. It is not merely to keep man in his lowly place, but to provide an ocean of freedom and security in knowing that salvation is all God's. Salvation comes from God's grace, and so God will sustain it even when you fail. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus, so trusting Him keeps you connected even when you mess up. And since faith is a gift from God, by which you receive God's grace, God will never take your faith away. So knowing that salvation is by grace through faith means the confident assurance that our eternal life of knowing Jesus is completely in His capable hands. This means, to quote Tenth Avenue North, "Hallelujah! We are free to struggle! We're not struggling to be free!" ** 4 ** How much of salvation is by grace, through faith? This is a question you may have never thought to ask, but it changes so much. We usually think of this verse as basically saying, "You get saved by grace through faith." To speak with more precise theological terminology, we usually consider this as saying we are justified by grace through faith. We think of it as saying this is how salvation begins. However, there is more to salvation than getting saved, more than justification. One of the most important components of salvation is transformation, sanctification. Part of being saved is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, changed from the inside by the Holy Spirit. This is what the last verse in our text addresses. Ephesians 2:10. We are no longer dead sinners. Instead, as God's new workmanship, we are vessels of mercy created in Jesus for a certain purpose. This purpose is to do good works which God has prepared for us. God doesn't just use His powerful, overwhelming grace to get you out of Hell and into Heaven; He also uses it to make you more like a citizen on Heaven now! We are now new creations make "in Christ Jesus." Can you see what that means? Jesus is the prototype of believers. One day we will be made like Him on the outside and in, but for now God is gradually transforming our soul to be more like Jesus, so that we will walk in good works He has made for us. Again, boasting is excluded, for at this point we see that anything good in us is a result of being remade in the image of Jesus Christ. However, I am getting ahead of myself. How does by grace through faith relate to this transformation? How does it relate to doing good works and being more like Jesus Christ? We are sanctified by grace through faith. God's changing grace comes to renew us by the pathway of our growing faith. When we live in faith, when we trust God, He pours powerful grace into us that changes us and enables us to live in His good works. The beauty of this is that it provides the same assurance and safe confidence that initial salvation by grace through faith does. Just our getting saved doesn't rely on our own efforts or will or performance, so our living out salvation is not dependent on anything in us. Through the faith He provides, God gives us sanctifying grace that makes us more like His Son and enables us to live up to the calling He has given. Paul himself put this best in Philippians 2:12-13. God has saved us, and He calls us to work out this salvation into our lives, but by grace through faith He Himself is the who creates in us the desire and effort to do the good works to which He calls us. All we have to do is trust Him, to have faith in His promise. He says that He will give us grace through faith, so our response should be simply to open wide our hands of faith and receive the grace He promises. In this, God gets the glory and we get the grace, so that salvation is perfected and God's plan of "by grace through faith" gets its full meaning.
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